Third Party Shortcuts May Not Be the Answer To Creating a Website
BY Russ Chandler
Whether you realize it or not, there’s a tremendous shift occurring in the automotive industry in creating websites. As technology continues to advance at a wildly rapid pace, dealerships are looking to further enhance their marketing and sales efforts more than ever before. The reason for this, naturally, is because the automotive sales industry (namely the dealership aspects) is so unbelievably competitive.
Seeing that so many consumers do a tremendous amount of research online, they have a pretty concrete idea of what they want. Really, the only thing consumers actually need to do is find a dealership (any dealership) to pick up their vehicle. With that said, dealers are always looking for ways to stand out digitally by implementing more heavily branded, highly personalized elements to their website.
The Good Ole Days
Now, let’s backtrack about…oh… I dunno… 5 or 7 years ago. Amongst the majority of dealerships, third party tools were all the rage. Because consumers were already familiar with brands like AutoTrader, Edmunds, KBB and Black Book, they weren’t hesitant to input their information in order to get a trade appraisal or quote. These are brands the majority of Americans still trust to this very day. And at the time, it made collecting leads a piece of cake.
Along with garnering trust from consumers, what made these third party tools so special was that they were easy to integrate onto your website, and it took care of a lot of the “hard stuff” — the stuff that many dealers don’t know how to do. Instead of dealing with the painstaking task of learning how to create forms, websites and rich media, dealerships could have it done for them.
With these tools, lead information is collected easily by having consumers answer a few simple, but relevant questions. Now mind you, this doesn’t just apply to third party lead generation tools. This applies to almost every aspect of your dealership’s online presence — including your website, which might or might not have been created through a dealership website service.
Costs are Rising, How’s your ROI?
Okay, so now, let’s fast forward to 2016. Third party branded tools are still a reliable option but there are a few issues that lie ahead of dealers that continue to use them. First issue: As time progresses, the cost of the third party tool you’re using will steadily rise. And no, it isn’t because they’re greedy or anything like that.
That’s just what businesses do. The real problem with this is that as you continue to pay more and more, your ROI begins to suffer and depending on just how awesome business is, you’re either losing money or you’re simply breaking even. Neither option is good for business.
Developing your own tools and resources to drive traffic to your own website might seem cumbersome (and initially expensive), but down the line, it’ll prove to be a very wise decision. If you’re in it for the long haul, those third party shortcuts won’t be doing you any favors… and that brings me to my next issue.
The second issue with many all-in-one, cookie-cutter and third party tools is the customization factor. As many dealerships now leverage third party tools to engage with consumers and capture leads, standing out becomes more challenging.
Although dealerships can customize some aspects of their tool, they can rarely take full ownership of it. If they’re lucky, they might be able to swap out a logo or two, but for the most part, all these tools, website templates look identical to one another. This means no customized questions, branding or rich media.
This is definitely an issue since branding has become an extremely important component for dealership success. Although many consumers generally trust third party providers, consumers are still weary about giving their information away. Properly branding your online presence gives your dealership the opportunity to prove your value as well as prove your trust.
Customize Message, Optimize Lead Capture
Along with implementing your logos and designs, you can fully customize the messaging and optimize it for optimal lead capture. This is especially important if you’re running a themed campaign that would benefit from cohesive branding on all aspects of the online presence (social media posts, tools, website theme changes, etc.)
Given the issues discussed with third party branded tools and services, many dealerships have placed a significant amount of focus on refining (and promoting) their own unique brand, as well as developing their own tools.
Not only do dealers prefer having full control over how their brand is represented (and what information is being collected), they really enjoy seeing a really nice return. If your dealership leverages and develops its own tools and services, you have full control over its presentation and can make changes based on how many leads you’re generating and how your sales are going.
Many dealerships across the nation have already begun heavily personalizing different aspects their online presence.
Here some of the changes that many dealerships are already making:
Complete Website Redesigns and Overhauls
In a valiant attempt to stand out amongst the competition, many dealerships have been doing complete overhauls of their websites. While many standard website templates provide dealerships with everything they need to boost their online presence, they often don’t allow for dealerships to fully develop a brand of their own digitally.
Most dealership website providers have limitations on what elements can be customized, thus making it difficult for consumers to differentiate among dealerships. In addition to not being able to brand their websites to the fullest extent, dealerships also find it difficult to give consumers with the online experience they want to provide them.
Because of this, a number of dealerships across the nation have begun rebuilding their websites in order to better reflect their brand, and provide a more engaging online experience for their consumers. And along with wanting a more useful, branded experience, dealerships are especially excited about the concept of a sleek, clean, professional looking website that both impresses and legitimizes their brand.
Instead of leveraging a limited design template to create pages on their website, dealers are attempting to customize every aspect of their site as much as humanly possible. To do this, dealerships will typically do one of two things.
The first thing a dealer can do is hire a professional web designer to code and design an entire website for them. Although this can be a pricier option, the returns you’ll likely receive will make all the extra time, effort and funds worth it. The second option is to use a website provider that’s more flexible with their website customization. Obviously, this is a more practical, cost-effective option.
Although many dealership website providers have significant limitations on their templates, some provide dealers with the option to heavily customize templates on the backend. Both options have provided dealers with the opportunity to improve the overall consumer experience.
Interactive Lead Capture Tools Becoming More Advanced
Interactive lead capture tools (Ex: Trade Appraisal, E-Price, Test Drives, etc.) are getting the heavy customization treatment from dealerships as well. Like their websites, dealers are heavily focused on the branding aspects of their lead capture tools.
The reason for this is because most third party lead capture tools possess their own branding — even when they’ve been integrated onto a dealership’s website. To the consumer, these tools are simply appended to the website and have little to no association with the actual brand, which diminishes consumer legitimacy and trust.
Another primary reason dealerships are creating and heavily personalizing their lead capture tools is that they want to get as much useful data as possible.
Lead capture tool customization allows dealers to ask questions that would help dealers to better assist their consumers. The more relevant questions dealers ask (from the lead capture tools), the better your generated buyer profiles will be and the better rapport you’ll have with your consumers.
Use of Rich Media
The last thing dealerships are focusing on in regards to lead capture tools is the use of rich media. Whether it’s pictures or video, the typical third party lead capture tool doesn’t have a whole lot of flexibility or options for it.
Obviously, rich media is completely optional. But it’s a great way to nab a consumer’s attention and inform new and seasoned customers about new promotions or inventory. Essentially, it’s an additional opportunity to communicate with consumers prior to you actually speaking with them personally.
As you can see, there’s more than just one significant reason for dealerships wanting to personalize their online presence. Dealerships want to collect useful data, save money, and more importantly, prove their legitimacy to consumers old and new. As technology continues to evolve rapidly, there’s no doubt that dealerships will find more ways to not only customize their online presence, but their showroom presence as well.
Consumers who are forming opinions and making decisions in your market are likely to be looking for a lot more than just a good price these days. With dealers all priced so competitively, non-monetary value is making a huge impact on where consumers end up buying.
This new generation of dealers are responding with what we’ve talked about today and the results have been that they’re now one of the leaders in their market. It is most evident with larger groups that have the ability to invest heavily but now, even the small dealership as very affordable options to carry the same strategy on a level that is management by a small dealership.